A reflection on the SERA conference 2013 by ACTS committee member Tony Luby.
Well, maybe Doris Day got it wrong and ‘the future is ours to see’ – and, no, it’s not orange! Andrina Inglis (our new Chair) and I are enjoying the delights of the annual conference of the Scottish Educational Research Association at the University of Glasgow – ‘Widening Horizons: Scottish Research in a Global Context.’
The opening day had a particular focus for practitioners and our own Cathy Francis wowed (or should that be bow-wowed!) the participants with her presentation Should You Teach Old Dogs New Tricks?Well, given the new GTCS Standards and, especially, the expectations for Practitioner Enquiry we don’t want to find ourselves barking up the wrong tree! OK, I’ll be a good boy and stop now.
Just before Cathy’s presentation I attended an intriguing double presentation by Alan Britton and Anna Beck of the University of Glasgow. Through different methodologies each lifted the veil, albeit slightly, of the machinations taking place behind closed doors when major policies such as Curriculum for Excellence and Teaching Scotland’s Future are being implemented. Anna’s PhD analysis is still on-going and, along with her colleague who is a clear and authoritative speaker, they would make a great ‘double act’ for our own conference at Stirling, 01 March 2014.
Similarly, I had the privilege of chairing a symposium from 4 Dundee University graduate students and their staff mentor (Sue Mansfield) about The Role of Practice-based Research in Community Education.Frankly, it was nothing short of inspiring. In their different ways each of the students had undertaken rigorous research that highlighted important areas for development within Community Education (or Community Learning & Development). This research had clearly impacted upon their practices and was for the benefit of some of the most vulnerable within our society. They are truly living up to the motto of their course ‘Working Together to Achieve Social Justice.’ They, too, would be a must-see for our conference.
I’m sorry to be missing tonight’s talk at which the after-dinner speaker, Walter Humes, has promised a few indiscretions! Meanwhile, on this second day, Andrina is busy identifying some more ‘nuggets’ for the 2014 Stirling conference. Roll on the 1st of March!
However, among the key attributes for which Chartered Teachers were recognised and rewarded were openness to change, resilience, a commitment to professional development, and a reflective and enquiring disposition. These attributes do not disappear just because it is politically or financially expedient to cease to reward them, and it is these attributes that have sustained the Association during this period of adjustment and have led to still more teachers recently joining ACTS.
Over the last few months, using the Three Horizons planning tools developed by the International Futures organisation, the committee has been actively pursuing a programme of reflection on its values, its strengths and its plans for the future. It is now close to emerging from its chrysalis phase. The new organisation will be more open, be of value to all teachers who are pursuing their professional development at Masters’ level in line with the new Standards and continue to encourage the deep professional discourse which has earned it the respect of educationists and most policy makers alike. The current membership of ACTS will of course be consulted and included in the proposals for change before they become public.
In addition to this metamorphosis, a vibrant and relevant conference in being planned, to equal or exceed the quality of previous events.
Reports of ACTS’ death have therefore been greatly exaggerated. Look out for the butterfly when it emerges!
The committee of the Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland is delighted to announce that Andrina Inglis has been unanimously elected as Chair of the Association. Andrina has a wide range of experience as both a teacher of Mathematics and Lecturer in Mathematics Education both here and south of the border and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education with the University of Edinburgh. She is passionate about ensuring quality in teacher education.
ACTS is delighted to announce that funding has been granted by the Scottish Government for our annual conference on 1st March 2014. The committee is busy planning an exciting, inspiring and useful day of professional development.
Much more information coming soon. Put the date in your diary now!
Held in Stirling on 2nd February
A selection of keynote speeches and workshops from the conference can be browsed and accessed here.
Audio conference recordings, produced by Radio Edutalk, are here.
Presentations from many of the sessions are here.
An essential conference for professionals with an interest in Scottish education, including: teachers, teacher educators, policy makers, and leaders from schools and local authorities.
The quality of teaching and learning experiences is known to have the greatest impact on the achievement of our young people. Curriculum for Excellence, the Donaldson Report, new Professional Standards, and other significant national developments … in a changing climate across Scotland’s learning landscape, how can these transformational elements best be developed?
Featuring invigorating debates, stimulating challenges and thought-provoking speakers, this conference will enable up to two hundred delegates to engage deeply, practically and creatively with current thinking, developments and opportunities. Participants can contribute to sharply-focused learning conversations, experience motivating presentations and contributions from key individuals and agencies in Scotland, and choose from a variety of relevant workshops.
The main keynote speaker, Professor Sir Tim Brighouse, will bring lessons from beyond Scotland, particularly from the London Challenge, with an emphasis on CPD and strategies for developing teacher professionalism.
Lunch and refreshments are included.
This conference is organised by the Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland, with the support of our conference sponsors:
The Scottish Government, The General Teaching Council for Scotland, The Educational Institute of Scotland, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Voice, The Open University, and the Schools of Education of the University of the West of Scotland, the University of Strathclyde, and the University of Aberdeen.
The conference programme will be issued to delegates on 18th January.
ACTS is a registered charity. Scottish charity number: SC041390
Click here to download the Bulletin if you have difficulties viewing or downloading the document.
ACTS welcome being consulted upon the new suite of Standards, and specific members valued being invited to join the writing group for The Standard for Career Long Professional Development (SCLPL). It is clear from our reading of the new suite of Standards that there is a very close relationship between these and the Standard for Chartered Teacher. The focus on teacher leadership and leadership for learning and the aspirational nature of the standards is to be welcomed.
Overall, these standards align very well to promote a coherent and connected approach to delivering effective teaching and learning in Scottish schools. The clear definitions of how each area of responsibility meshes should encourage stronger self-evaluation, critical enquiry and improvement processes for all. With regard to the role of Chartered Teachers within this framework of standards, we share the following observations, alignments with our standard, and points to note.
The Standard for Full Registration
The emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, learning across the curriculum, using contexts for learning effectively and pedagogy is welcome. The statements regarding working with others – for curricular reasons and to enable links with individuals and groups out-with school are also advantageous.
Effective use is made of diagrams throughout the standards – see note below regarding SCLPL. The organisational use of Professional Values and Commitments, Professional Dispositions, Professional Knowledge, Understanding, Skills & Abilities and Professional Actions throughout helps to unify aims and responsibilities for all.
The Standard for Career Long Professional Development (SCLPL)
There are many aspects of this standard which echo elements of the Chartered Teacher programme and overlap with our standard:
Points to note:
The Standard for Leadership and Management
The clear definition of leadership in all of its forms is welcome, as is the definition of management and the emphasis on distributed leadership. This standard demonstrates strong integration with elements of the Chartered Teacher programme and standard, including:
Points to note:
The Professional Actions of Middle Leaders as described in the standard align particularly well with the Chartered Teacher standard also:
Points to note:
Whether what is set out in the Standards is a practical and attainable representation of what can be achieved by all teachers , the vast majority of whom are class committed, and subject to constraints such as access to quality CPD and PR to facilitate this, will be tested as these Standards embed in practice. These standards should enable teachers in the classroom to realise that they are the future – the makers and shakers of learning, responsive to change, sharing values as a priority, taking on challenge and meeting it. This suite of standards is aspirational, a continuum, and as human nature dictates, will no doubt allow many to exercise their own limits and progress as far as they wish to at any given time in their career. They define the formal requirement of accountability for all involved in education and it is in full awareness of their importance that ACTS offer these comments which we hope will be helpful before finalisation of the suite.
How challenging can it be for today’s teachers, in the present economic climate, to access an afternoon of quality CPD? An enthusiastic delegation of Dutch colleagues visited Glasgow to explore a range of issues, one of which was of particular interest to Chartered Teachers, namely, how an effective Masters-level teaching force might be developed in the Netherlands. As a member of the Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland, I was keen to discover what colleagues in the Netherlands were currently thinking and what we might learn from them.
Following a brief – and typically, witty- introduction from David Cameron (the Real…Ltd), David Noble, Chair of ACTS, delivered a summary of Scottish education’s ambitious Masters-level programme which began with pilot modules in 2001, and described its evolutionary – perhaps now catalytic – impact on CPD and GTCS Standards to date, not solely within the recently updated Standard for Chartered Teacher, but also the undoubted influence on forthcoming developments, which will present Scotland’s teachers with opportunities to engage in CPD within an improved, more challenging framework.
André Koffeman then presented an overview of ‘Masters-level professional learning in Holland’, first posing the question, ’For an uncertain future, how can we know how to teach and what to teach? ’. He then highlighted some thought-provoking research by van de Grift (2009, 2010), whose findings suggested that in Holland, the average teacher reaches just two-thirds of their potential, in that within a 5 – 10 year period of teaching, they reach a peak in their experience, with a plateau effect thereafter. Aiming for ‘collective professionalism’ in addition to ‘individual professionalism’, and in endeavouring to create ‘a social context in which staff start learning again’, Action Research and Professional Learning Communities are identified as a viable way forward. In concluding, Andre encouraged us to reflect on what we do as teachers, and to promote the positive message that ‘Learning is a good thing, ‘otherwise, how will pupils learn?’
Language proved no barrier when facilitating one of several ‘break-out’ groups, comprising Chartered Teachers and leading academics, together with Dutch teachers and lecturers. Excellent examples of recent Masters research in Scottish schools were presented, with most groups so thoroughly engrossed in enquiry that it necessitated some ‘rounding up’ to return to the Plenary. At this point, the future of Masters-level professional learning was examined, in addition to a hint of what the GTCS may have in store, via the National Partnership Group.
In concluding this inspiring afternoon, there was a consensus that in identifying common challenges and aspirations, useful links could be established with our counterparts in Holland – and beyond – supporting a growing culture of teachers learning from one another.
Julie Tormey, M.Ed.
NATURE & DEPTH OF DISCUSSIONS
After a brief introduction to the Chartered Teacher scheme and the Dutch understanding of the term professional learning and the need to undertake such, Dutch and Scottish colleagues had self-organised into 7 groups.
I presented the small scale action research project that I undertook as part of my MTeach, afterwards fielding questions from all sides.
Not unusual for disconnects to occur between different participants in learning. The vertical group research revealed a mismatch between the pupils’ true experiences and teachers assumptions of pupils’ experiences and a disconnect between the Headteacher’s assumptions about the teachers’ experiences and the truth of teachers’ experiences. Monique, a teacher in a Dutch vocational secondary school, lamented how her students often seemed unable to identify opportunities to apply their classroom learning when out on work placements.
Some of those who had chosen (Scotland)/been chosen (Holland) to undertake Masters level professional learning in both the Netherlands and Scotland had experienced a degree of professional jealousy directed towards them by colleagues.
On a personal level, to share my research with others who had gone through the same process and understood the process, the emotions and the demands of a teacher-learner-researcher that were involved.
ONGOING ACTIONS OF CHARTERED TEACHER
Complete follow-up action research to explore impact of initial investigation into vertical groups in my setting.
Display initial and follow-up research posters at the Scottish Educational Research Association (SERA) 37th annual conference in November.
Complete my MTeach – remaining modules are ‘Chartered Teachers as Catalyst of Change’ and ‘Chartered Teachers as Knowledge Creators’ (dissertation).
Consolidate ACTS (despite everything), start work on formalising international network of educators involved in professional learning & research
PRESENTATION TO SCOTTISH & DUTCH COLLEAGUES on 19th September 2012
I was 11 years into my career when I embarked on the Chartered Teacher programme in 2010. Currently, I am half way through my MTeach at Edinburgh University.
‘Vertically Challenged? What do vertical groups look like in my setting? What has been their impact?’ was a small scale action research project that investigated a new mixed age grouping practice called vertical groups that had been introduced at my school. Vertical groups take place once a week for about an hour and involve all pupils, teachers and support staff in the mainstream part of the school. There are 12 groups with a teacher for each, and every group has about 18 children in it. It’s vertical because there’s a mix of children from each stage in the school from P1 through to P7. In their first year, the vertical group sessions took in citizenship issues such as Fairtrade, the UNCRC and bullying.
The research developed from a couple of concerns I had.
Firstly, I wasn’t sure that I really understood the rationale behind the change that had been brought in by the Senior Management Team.
Secondly, although the general impression of vertical groups from participants and facilitators was positive, I worried that perhaps the youngest pupils were overwhelmed or even intimidated in the groups because numbers wise at least the groups were dominated by pupils all older them.
I collected evidence from teaching and non-teaching staff, managers and pupils. I gathered together photographs, film and drawings in addition to carrying out group and one-to-one interviews.
After analysis of all the data, several issues came to the fore. First of all, my initial worry about the younger pupils appeared to be unfounded. This was good, although I should admit that due to time constraints, I was unable talk with the children about their drawings in order to verify my interpretations but I feel that the preponderance of smiley faces and bright colours tells the story of their positive experiences.
Some quite stark disconnects were revealed between what teachers believed about the pupil experience and what pupils themselves thought. For example, some teachers categorically stated that particular named children were not enjoying or getting anything out of vertical groups for a specific reason ie: elective mutism or autism, meanwhile the drawings done by those particular children were amongst the smiliest and most colourful of all, indicating quite the opposite. Rather that their engagement with this new and novel way of working, was on their own terms.
There was also a mismatch between what the HT thought about the teacher experience of vertical groups and what teachers thought. Talking about the content of the different vertical group sessions in her interview, the HT said that ‘the staff have had input beforehand and the leaders or co-leaders have been trained for anything that they’ve had to take forward’. In reality, one member of staff was charged with planning the lesson every week for all 12 groups and during data collection, the staff as a whole lamented the lack of advance notification regarding the content of the vertical group sessions. And, while the pupil leaders were very enthusiastic and took their responsibilities very seriously, most were often underprepared for communicating the content of the lessons effectively because advance planning and review were not built-in and simply had not occurred. Related literature underlined the extent to which a high level of organisation, planning and ongoing support for all participants was required for such a structural transformation to become a successful and sustainable practice.
As for the rationale behind vertical groups, the HT explained that she thought it was a great way to broaden pupil voice in the school. She also believed it was a way of improving relationships across the whole school community. This view was certainly supported by the data I collected in school. Reading the literature helped me understand that while there is no one grouping practice which suits everybody, there was a strong evidence base for the HT’s contention that vertical groups would bring about more widely distributed pupil voice and stronger community feeling.
In the wake of the research several things have happened.
Though the research was ostensibly carried out for a university assignment, fortunately my Headteacher has been very supportive throughout and she asked me to present it to colleagues at school.
Following on from that presentation, changes were made to vertical groups so that planning is now shared across the whole staff, the pupil leaders have access to all the lesson plans weeks in advance so there is a far greater degree of ownership and understanding of the content from pupils and staff.
Since the start of this academic year, more mixed-age working opportunities have been incorporated into the timetable.
And on a personal note, the profound understanding I achieved through the critical thinking processes that underpin the action research left me feeling empowered and with an increased sense of agency and self-efficacy. I think that the confidence derived from my studies undoubtedly helped me succeed at interview for a secondment to a national organisation. I genuinely believe that had I not engaged in this style of professional learning, none of it would have ever happened.
The Dutch visitors were informed of the educational changes implemented by the Mc Crone Agreement and the different routes that had been pursued by teachers wishing to attain Chartered Teacher Status.
These routes have included the following:
(This route attracted many teachers who had previously held promoted posts such as APT and ST. The McCrone agreement proposed a reconstruction of the teaching career routes. These positions were eliminated with a view to maintaining good teachers in the classroom.
Regardless of the route chosen, Chartered Teachers have demonstrated that they possess a wealth of experience in their subject discipline and wider educational issues. They are a highly skilled human resource. Chartered Teachers have recognised that the programme was an excellent professional development opportunity. It has been aligned to the highest professional standards set by the GTCS.
Engaging in Practitioner Action Research has transformed the practice of many Chartered Teachers in many ways. They continue to impact upon the curriculum employing the skills and knowledge acquired through reading and research of educational theory. The Chartered Teacher Programme has empowered them to gain confidence in experimentation with new methodologies and current approaches to Learning and Teaching. Many Chartered teachers have incorporated AifL techniques, collaborative learning and self-evaluation into their daily practice. They are highly committed to their continuing personal development.
Several Chartered Teachers informed the Dutch visitors of the work involved in their individual action based research projects. These projects were initially undertaken as part of their CT studies.
These included the following:
It is evident that the extent to which Chartered Teachers can impact upon the curriculum can vary and be restricted by the schools in which they teach. A greater understanding of the CT qualification is required. The Head of Establishments should recognise that the Chartered Teacher is a valuable human resource. Given the collective experiences of the Chartered Teachers present, they are well equipped to support the implementation of ACFE, assist in Mentoring and advise staff in the GTCS update of Professional Standards. Many Chartered Teachers are active members of Learning and Teaching communities and are involved in projects such as curriculum development and interdisciplinary work.
The Dutch colleagues informed Chartered Teachers that they are part of the first cohort of a Pilot Masters programme. Unlike the GTCS model the Dutch programme is funded by their Government. On completion of the Masters qualification there is no financial reward. Depending on the particular route adopted, the Chartered Teachers present highlighted that they had invested sums of money ranging between £ 1,800 and £ 6,000 in their professional development. Extensive personal time had also been invested in pursuing individual research and study. Both Scottish and Dutch teachers faced the demands and challenges of managing their studies outwith the school day.
There is variation in teaching salaries paid in Holland as it is dependent on the school and the area in which they teach, even if the same subject discipline is involved.
Dutch teachers are nominated by the Head of Establishment to follow the Masters programme whereas Chartered Teachers were self-nominated. It was highlighted that the GTCS procedures were rigorous and that the acquisition of staff testimonials had been necessary to support the final portfolios.
Like Chartered Teachers, Dutch teachers were engaged in action based research projects. Some themes were similar. On completion of the Masters qualification the Dutch teachers are expected to promote the programme to other staff. It may be a rolling programme. However some teachers raised questions as to whether all teachers would be capable of meeting the standards required.
Both Scottish and Dutch teachers agreed that the qualifications were valuable. The personal learning that had taken place as part of the journey had transformed their practice.
Teachers in Holland and Scotland face similar challenges. The economy, government, educational directives and societal changes continue to impact upon their conditions and impose restrictions on the way teachers operate. Questions were raised regarding true professional autonomy versus prescriptive teaching.
This event was beneficial in learning about educational initiatives in Holland. Teachers from both countries would have enjoyed more time to exchange ideas. An online forum would promote further discussion from which all teachers involved could enhance their professional development.
I was impressed about how much further ahead than Scotland Holland seems to be with regard to vocational education, and several of the teachers were involved in areas like nursing education and education for horticulture. The group of teachers I held discussions with told me that some pupils make a choice at the age of 12 about the route they are going to follow: academic or vocational. Vocational education also doesn’t seem to have the stigma that it has here. In fact one teacher told me that the group that seemed to have the most problems as far as perception was concerned was the lower performing academic group.
I was also interested to find out from one teacher that Dutch schools don’t have a catchment area, and so have to attract pupils, if they don’t succeed in doing this and numbers fall, teachers can lose their jobs and ultimately the school could close. The other thing that amazed me was that someone who had only been qualified for less than two two years was able to become a head of department. The teacher concerned explained to me that there was a shortage of teachers in Holland because people could earn far more in industry and commerce, so it was possible to become a head of department very rapidly. Obviously this is very different to the situation in Scotland! He did, however, point out that the situation was beginning to change because of the financial crisis in the Eurozone.
Several of the teachers told me that they had been very impressed by the efforts teachers at Govan High made to help pupils from deprived backgrounds achieve their potential. Two of them told me they had been shocked by the levels of multiple deprivation that some pupils at the school faced, as these were much greater than they faced in their own establishments. They thought the teachers there were doing an excellent job and found their visit there highly stimulating.
A presentation by one member of the group also had interesting ideas for helping pupils move on from a “plateau” of achievement in Maths, while another presentation looked at the performance of teachers throughout their careers, noted that performance tended to level off on a graph and decline, and suggested ways of reversing this decline and moving the graph upwards. Levelling off and decline in teaching performance can also be an issue in Scotland, and obviously collaborative work with colleagues and professional CPD of the type envisaged in the Donaldson Report has an important role to play in re-energising teachers.
An ACTS committee member had positive informal discussions with the Dutch course leader and, in the near future, this may see Dutch teachers writing for SERA’s online journal Researching Education Bulletin. ACTS has successfully run teachers-as-researchers seminars in co-operation with British universities and one suggestion put forward is to extend this to Amsterdam University.
One teacher presented his findings about inter faith dialogue derived from a recently completed MSc dissertation at Oxford University. The twenty pupils in S3 and S4 involved with this action research project responded positively to a series of teacher-led interventions. Analysis of their conversations revealed clear evidence that the pupils developed skills in both cumulative talk – whereby they built positively but uncritically on each other’s dialogue; and exploratory talk – in which they engaged critically but constructively with each other’s ideas. The teacher has been sufficiently encouraged to make a proposal to the Scottish Government that an anti-sectarianism project be established.
I am delighted to announce that the ACTS committee has agreed a 12-month deal with The College of Teachers at the Institute of Education in London, to provide ACTS members with free access to the education research resource, EBSCO Education Research Complete (click here for information).
It will be for individual ACTS members to decide whether they complete, or give permission to the ACTS committee to complete on their behalf, The College of Teacher’s pre-access registration process.
I can confirm that present ACTS members, and those who renew their ACTS membership for 2013, will not be required to make any payment for this 12-month access to EBSCO Education Research Complete.
I would like to thank Matthew Martin, CEO of The College of Teachers; and Tony Luby, ACTS committee member, for their work in securing this innovative arrangement.
I intend to issue full details to members on Friday, 12th October regarding registration and how to begin using the resource.
Please contact me if you have a query.
David Noble, ACTS Chair